The client, preparing to leave my office, announced that she will be blogging soon. After all, as interesting as her life has been, she owes it to the world to tell her story. She was serious. I started to laugh.
Has she lived an interesting life? Absolutely. She is totally interested. You? You might be bored and are probably apathetic, but she is completely captivated by the storms she has weathered, the dragons she has slain, and the bridges she has crossed. Speaking of bridges, she thinks you are dying to learn which ones she burned and which ones she spared, and why.
The blogosphere is filled with people just like her. Who amongst us hasn’t either overcome great adversity or is prepared to share his/her tales of martyrdom and sorrow? Divorce? Children? Jobs and businesses? We are all the stars of our own limited run movies, surprised at times that our potential audience is too wrapped up in their own productions to admire ours.
This is not to say that there isn’t a place for the autobiographical ramblings of Again? Really? and the blogs of other writers. Whether we are simply entertaining ourselves or, on really good days, a handful of readers, our blogs are a means of self-expression, communication, and venting. My daughter would probably reverse that order if this was just about me. Funny, poignant, possibly insightful, these posts might have some value.
But, my life isn’t that different than yours. And the woman in the first paragraph is more like you than she could ever imagine. The details may be different, such as how long she has been at her job. Or maybe it is how she raised her children. Perhaps it was finding her significant other cavorting with five midgets and a film crew from Jerry Springer (Ok, I clearly made that one up). Whatever, the core issues of acceptance, love, and appreciation color much of who we are.
So in the end we are not that different. Those harrowing experiences may have deeply impacted you, but each of us can match those with the challenges we faced. We have all won some battles by sheer luck and lost wars when we should have been victorious. If you make us laugh, if you make us think, we just might care.
Where is Golda?
“Golda doesn’t live here anymore.”
And with that I learned that I had lost another member of my congregation. Golda (name changed for obvious reasons) had lived in Arden Courts, an Alzheimer and dementia facility, for the last few years. Her family moved her sometime in the last week. Where? Why? I will never know.
I conduct a weekly Friday evening service at Arden Courts for the Jewish residents and their families. Attached is the article that ran in the Beachwood Buzz earlier this year. I named my group, my congregation, Am Shalom, The People of Peace, and created a service for them. The majority of my group have attended, week after week, since I began. They follow the service, participate as much as they can and tolerate my off-key singing. It is the rest, the ones who come and go, that get to me at times.
Arden Courts is a terrific Alzheimer facility, but it is still a facility. One of my congregants died. Some can’t sit still and comfortably participate in a 10 to 15 minute service. And a couple have relocated for some reason or another. But I have interacted with them. And I have watched them change as Alzheimer’s claims more and more of who they were and transforms them into a shell of their former selves. And against my better judgment, I have become attached. I celebrate those moments of clarity when one of my congregation is totally present. And I miss them when they are gone.
Golda had attended almost all of my services. Even on days when she was physically with us but her mind was clearly elsewhere, Golda usually had a moment or two of clarity. The fog would lift and she would knowingly laugh at herself and her fellow residents. I had special jokes in the service just for her.
So good luck Golda wherever you are. I hope that there is someone there to tell you a joke every time the fog lifts.
Ann Arbor Art Fairs – Greetings from one of the largest art fairs in the country. Technically, Ann Arbor is four separate art shows that happen to run concurrently. There are a total of 1400 plus booths. Paintings, ceramics, sculpture, wood, fiber, glass, and jewelry are just some of the types of art on display for your viewing pleasure. And of course, everything is available to take home today.
Darcy, who I was dating in 1993, introduced me to Ann Arbor. I have attended almost every year since then.
Entire city streets are closed to vehicle traffic. Booth after booth. There doesn’t appear to be any logic or reason for the $6000 sculpture to be right next to the guy selling $5 ceramic trivets. But that’s Ann Arbor.
One whole block of East Liberty Street is dedicated to not-for-profit organizations. Everyone coexists respectfully and peacefully. The Right to Lifers with their plastic fetuses are within 100 feet of the National Abortion Rights Action League. The Republicans are within spitting distance of Congressman Dingell’s staffers. There are advocates for greyhounds, the homeless, and the legalization of marijuana. Some of the booths are common, mainstream charities. Some, like the nudists, two fat guys thankfully wearing shorts, are reminders that we are in a college town. All of the advocates sit in their booths and talk to anyone interested. If you aren’t interested, you simply keep on walking. What the Hell? If a couple of people want to spend their time campaigning against circumcision (for real), it isn’t hurting anyone.
There is only one group attending the Art Fairs, stationed primarily in the not-for-profit zone, that doesn’t play by the unwritten rules. Instead of manning an ignorable booth, they are positioned in the middle of the street at both ends of the zone. Their volunteers accost the attendees and attempt to force people to acknowledge their presence and take their fliers. They are a lie and a sham. They are, of course, Jews for Jesus.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m positive that somewhere, sometime ago, someone born Jewish decided to become Catholic, or Methodist, or whatever. That was a personal decision of faith. It was their choice and I honestly don’t care. I know men and women who have chosen to be Jewish. That was their choice. We aren’t keeping score. Jews for Jesus is different.
First, I must admit that I find any type of proselytizing offensive. I have always thought that the idea of reducing the search for a personal relationship with G-d to the experience of buying an overpriced vacuum cleaner terribly odd. But Jehovah’s Witnesses are, at times, amusing in their naiveté. J. W.’s are out collecting warm bodies. They need to hit critical mass to get to heaven. Jews for Jesus is an organization of non-Jews targeting Jews.
I just passed the tall, thin blonde girl. It is impossible to say what a Jew looks like or who, for sure, is Jewish. But this farm girl, a veteran of several years of Ann Arbor Art Fairs, is decidedly not Jewish. I’m willing to bet that the only Jews she has ever met are the ones she’s offended. Their blue t-shirts give us fair warning. We try to avoid them. Our children see their shirts and signs and ask us how you could have a Jew or Jesus. The answer for our children is to laugh and to tell them that on the next block there will be signs on fake cows advertising hamburgers.
The crowd isn’t as big in Ann Arbor this year. Art is a luxury. Some of the artists have confided that business is down. The Billmans, wonderful artists whose work graces both my office and my home, only have one booth this year instead of two. So far I have purchased only a couple of small items including a cool pair of cufflinks. The one thing I won’t be taking home with me is a new religion.
Yes, Mr. Coonix. My name is Jean and I am calling about your recent visit to our store…
Time for another bogus survey. Every trip to the car dealer or the cell phone store results in one of these calls. You are warned in advance by the clerk, waitress or salesperson that anything less than a “ten” is considered a failure. Ten out of Ten. It is pass/fail with nine fail options. It is total BS. The employees are cowed into providing less mediocre service, the customers forced to pretend that they actually enjoyed the shopping experience. Sometimes we did, but we are nice people so we always give the requested superlatives. It is all so cynical.
There is a way to measure excellence. We know real success. And, we have witnessed the results of falling short of one’s expectations.
The Plain Dealer had a sad but important story in today’s paper about a basketball player who had fallen short of his goals. He had not lived up to his or his teammates’ expectations. His time with the Cavs could have been more productive. He had disappointed countless people around the country. And, in the end, he paid the ultimate price.
Mel Turpin died yesterday. To be more accurate, he committed suicide. He was only 49 years old. Mel Turpin was the sixth pick in the 1984 draft, the same draft that gave the league Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley. He was a top collegiate player who had led Kentucky to several conference championships. But, he was a bust as a pro. He couldn’t control is weight. His nickname was Dinner Bell Mel. He only played five years before retiring.
Mel Turpin knew the definition of excellence. He knew what 10 out of 10 looked like. In college it was winning the final game, the one on the first Monday in April. In the pros it is winning the ring. It is being the best of the best. And Mel Turpin wasn’t. He lived with that and, sadly, probably died with that knowledge.
This all, of course, leads us to LeBron James. LBJ made a startling admission last night. He was forced to admit that he may be able to control the media, but he can not control the basketball court. He is not THE MAN. He ceded control to Dwayne Wade.
LeBron James was unable to convince Chris Bosh and D-Wade to join his team, the Cavaliers. The money was here. What was missing was the leadership. LeBron couldn’t get the job done. Just as he had failed on the court, he couldn’t execute the deal off the court. If he wanted to play with Bosh and Wade, he would have to leave HIS team, HIS home, HIS safe-haven and join them on Wade’s turf. The announcers and talking heads discussed LeBron as the point guard, sacrificing a part of his game to fit into the new role. To win a ring, to be a part of a championship team, LeBron was forced to admit that he couldn’t lead a team, or a city, to glory.
So what did we see last night? We saw the real LeBron. Unscripted. Amazingly unprepared. Off the court, when the lightning fast reflexes, the court sense, and the basketball knowledge are of no help, he had difficulty communicating. “ I’m going to take my talents to South Beach…” Really? Talents to Miami, laundry to New York?
Dressed in a loose fitting plaid shirt, the guy who had staged this whole self-indulgent promotion was unprepared when the lights came on. More importantly, he showed himself to be unprepared for the responsibility of leadership. He shamed his team. He shamed Northeast Ohio. And in particular, he shamed Dan Gilbert, a guy who appears to have given him anything he had wanted. Not only did Gilbert get the brush off on national TV, we, the audience, were told by James that Gilbert and the other teams were learning his decision during the announcement. He didn’t have the grace or class to talk to the people who had offered him millions. It was tasteless. It was sad. As I watched this spectacle I thought about his teammates, the team management, and the fans. G-d knows he didn’t.
So, if Miami wins a title, and that is a big if, will James be OK? Will winning an NBA title on someone else’s team be enough? Is being a really great role player enough to assuage his ego. I always thought he wanted to be Michael Jordan. I never imagined him as Scotty Pippin. But in this era of grade inflation, where everyone wants a score of 10 out of 10 regardless of the real value, maybe you can still be a King even when you live in someone else’s country.
The last two posts of Again? Really? have featured a few of my recipes. The first was for a versatile pecan crust and a pumpkin pie. One June 23rd I wrote about mashed cauliflower and a fun chicken dish. These recipes were all written as if you, my readers, were sitting in my kitchen, sharing a good bottle of wine, and opening the oven door when my hands were full.
Some of you may have learned a new way to make dinner. Some of you may be serving pie this weekend. I also learned a few things:
- There are people who like to read recipes, the more conversational the better.
- Desserts are more interesting than main courses.
- Cooks who only want instructions HATE my conversational style.
Hate is not an exaggeration. My readers are not bashful. And I am not complaining.
You might lose your patience if you are in the middle of making a dish, sautéing, stirring and measuring, and you are forced to wade through my prose in search of useful information. Simple, clear instructions would be more practical. The rest, including technique, should appear before or after the recipe.
I was, of course, initially devastated by the criticism. But I soon realized that it would be more productive to take my head out of the oven and bake a pie instead.
Lower Carb Apple Pie
Makes one 9” pie
3 T Flax Meal
¾ C Almond Meal or Almond Flour
¼ t Salt
1 T Liquid Sweetener (Malitol)
6 T Butter or Margarine, melted
¼ t Cinnamon
- Preheat the oven to 375 F
- Mix the dry ingredients
- Stir the sweetener into the melted butter
- Mix all of the ingredients together
- Spread the batter into the pie dish
- Baker for 12 minutes
- Cool thoroughly
2 Macintosh Apples, peeled and sliced
2 Braeburn Apples, peeled and sliced
1 packet Splenda
- Sprinkle the apples with the spices and Splenda
- Put into the cooled crust
2 Cups Frozen Pecan Pieces
4T Butter or Margarine, melted
2T Liquid Sweetener (Malitol)
- Preheat the oven to 375 F
- Chop the pecans
- Mix the liquid ingredients
- Mix all of the ingredients
- Form a crust over the pie
- Bake 1 hour
It’s dessert. It’s really easy. Try it and let me know what you think.
I was standing in the checkout line at Heinen’s. My default lunch is soup and a visit to the grocery store’s salad bar. In front of me was a new dieter. How could I tell? His diet lunch was a salad, a pound or more packed into the plastic family of four container. You can not focus on just what you eat. At some point you must also address how much.
Today’s recipe calls for .75 pounds of boneless chicken breast for a dinner for two adults. That is not ¾ of a pound per person. It is .75 total. I know that when I eat out it doesn’t matter whether I order a 12 ounce steak or a 6 ounce burger, I am going to clean my plate and I’m going to be full. You may be the same way. If you are, then you must control the size of the portions. You must control how much reaches your plate.
Wait, I hear you screaming, “Dave, where can I buy .75 pounds of boneless chicken breasts?” The answer is almost anywhere. First, don’t go nuts on me. You need about 12 ounces, not exactly. Second, I am aware the containers of boneless chicken breasts are usually much larger. No problem. Grab a nice package and take it to the meat department clerk (or if you are really lucky, the butcher) and tell him what you want.
I visited Boris’s Kosher Meats last Thursday morning.
“Yes David. I will take that package, divide it in two and double wrap them.”
“Thank you Boris.”
I don’t even have to ask.
I hate the idea of eating simply out of necessity. I believe that food should be delicious and cooking should be fun. This is my Kosher, low-carb version of Chicken Cordon Bleu. For fun we’ll call it Chicken Kosher Blues. I serve it on a bed of mashed cauliflower, garnish with roasted red pepper, and start the meal with a small salad.
Chicken Kosher Blues
12 ounces boneless chicken breast
2 Slices Tofutti Soy Mozzarella Cheese ( parve)
3 slices Kosher salami
½ small onion, chopped
2 large button mushrooms, sliced
1 cup low sodium chicken soup
½ cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
½ cup white wine
2 T margarine (parve)
2 T Olive Oil
1 T flour
Garlic Salt, Black Pepper, Poultry Seasoning
1. Pound the chicken breasts to about ¼” thickness. Place a slice of cheese and a slice of salami on each chicken breast. Roll up and secure with a couple of toothpicks.
2. Heat margarine and oil in a 10” covered skillet. Sauté onions, mushrooms and garlic. Don’t burn the onions. We’re just giving them a couple minute head start. Place the chicken into the pan, cooking each side till it is no longer pink. Don’t forget the ends.
3. Remove the chicken. Stir in one tablespoon of flour. Add more margarine and oil if needed. Stir in the chicken soup, almond milk and wine. Dice the last slice of salami and add it to the pan. We only need a couple of shakes of the garlic salt, a few twists of the pepper grinder, and about ¼ teaspoon of the poultry seasoning to finish this. Return the chicken to the skillet, cover, and simmer for 25 minutes. Periodically turn the chicken or spoon the gravy over the meat.
4. Serve over a bed of mashed cauliflower.
½ head of cauliflower, cut in florets
8 ounces frozen cauliflower florets
¼ cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
1 packet Splenda
White (or black) pepper
I usually make this first and then yutz with the chicken. The frozen cauliflower works just as well as fresh. This is an incredibly easy recipe. I wish I could say that I originated it. I didn’t. I just tweaked it.
1. Cook the cauliflower till tender. Steam or toss it into the boiling water. It really doesn’t matter.
2. Drain the cauliflower and let it cool for a minute or two.
3. Place the cauliflower into a food processor with some of the almond milk. I have a hand held mini-mixer that I stick right into the pot. Works great and quicker to clean! Puree the cauliflower till almost smooth. Think mashed potatoes, not baby food.
4. If you used the food processor, return the cauliflower to the pot and stir in the rest of the almond milk and up to one packet of Splenda. At this point I give this a couple twists from the pepper grinder. You won’t see white pepper. I personally don’t care. A couple of shakes of garlic powder and onion powder will give this a little more flavor. Check your consistency. If it is too runny, a teaspoon of cornstarch dissolved in a tablespoon of water will help. If it looks to dry, add a touch more almond milk.
5. Place the cauliflower in a small glass Pyrex casserole dish. Sprinkle with chives and place in a pre-heated 300 F oven for 45 minutes. I have left this in the oven for an hour with no ill effects. Like I said, easy.
This is only a starting point. There are countless ways to modify these recipes. Try them and share with all of us.
Let’s get the boring part of this out of the way. Yes, in June 2003 I weighed 255 pounds. That is not obese for a man my height, but I certainly wasn’t svelte. I was enduring my annual physical when my doctor, Larry Kent, diagnosed that I had borderline high blood pressure. He told me that I had to lose 15 pounds, lower my stress, and reduce my salt intake. I reminded him that I had weighed this much for several years. He replied that I could no longer carry it. I told him that the salt part was just boilerplate. My salt intake was excellent. And as far as stress goes, I wasn’t getting divorced for two more years.
Dr. Kent gave me three months to lose the weight and lower my blood pressure. Otherwise, I would have to take medication. Regular readers of my other blog, Health Insurance Issues With Dave, know that I didn’t want to take any medication. I created a low-carb diet and followed it religiously. By my next visit I had lost twenty pounds and had reduced my blood pressure to an acceptable level. Dr. Kent was pleased. I was curious whether I could lose another twenty.
In one year I lost 80 pounds. I was too thin. A doctor friend asked if I had had bariatric surgery. By September 2004 I had regained 15 pounds. I have hovered between 190 and 195 since. The combination of a low carbohydrate diet and a lot of discipline have allowed me to stay at this healthy weight. I don’t find it difficult, in part, because of all of the tasty foods I have to eat.
Susie Sharp has been after me to publish a cookbook. I have adapted a number of recipes to low-carb and Kosher. I keep Kosher in my home and this just makes the whole process a touch more challenging. I made a pumpkin pie over the weekend. I hope you will give it a try.
Pumpkin Pie with Pecan Crust
This makes one 9” pie.
2 cups pecan pieces
5 T melted butter or margarine
2-3 T fake sugar
¼ teaspoon vanilla
1. This works best if the pecans were kept in the freezer until you are ready to make the crust. Pulse them in a food processor or grind them in a coffee mill. Keep them chunky. You don’t want powder.
2. Add the margarine, vanilla and fake sugar. I like Joseph’s liquid or a couple of Splenda packets. Mix the four ingredients thoroughly.
3. Dump into the pie pan and spread the crust with your fingers. There really is enough.
1 15 oz can of pumpkin or the better part of the 28 oz can
2/3 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
1/3 cup coffee cream
1/3 cup fake sugar (this is a good time to use the liquid stuff)
2 teaspoons cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt
Pinch of cloves
1. Preheat oven to 425
2. Mix all of the ingredients into a blender or food processor. I don’t have a blender or food processor. I dump everything into a really big bowl, get out a whisk, and mix the daylights out of it. Works just fine.
3. Pour into the crust.
4. Put the pie into the oven and immediately turn the temperature down to 375 F. In 15 minutes, reduce the temperature to 350 F. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until the center looks to be about set or the pie starts to crack around the edges. This is 35 minutes in my oven. Yours? You’ll find out.
5. Cool and serve. I like The whipped cream in the can. There are almost no carbs.
Pumpkin is in short supply right now. I have found the larger can at Heinen’s. This allows me to use about 18 oz of pumpkin. You can use the rest as a side course. You can heat it in the microwave and serve it like mashed sweet potato.
I would like to know if anyone attempts this and if there really is an interest in other low-carb recipes.
I wasn’t insulted. I wasn’t hurt. It was obvious that the two women thought that I was gay. From their perspective, I had exhibited all of the signs of being gay. My clothes matched. I paid attention to them. And, I hadn’t hit on either of them.
I am not gay. I do dress with care and listen to people, men and women, even if only to hear what they have to say. And in the case of those two women, they really weren’t my type. (Feel free to insert your own joke here.) Still, I did find the entire episode amusing.
I have always hidden in plain sight. No secrets. I haven’t any skeletons hiding in my walk-in closets. No scandals waiting to break. It’s not that I have had a boring, uneventful life. I just believe that the best way to deal with life’s problems is with openness and laughter.
It’s not for everybody.
Even though marriage and relationships are a large part of my daily conversation, this blog has spent more space on other issues. This was not intentional. It just happened. Besides, this blog also includes five years’ of columns from my time with Ohio’s Finest Singles. If You Won’t Leave Me, I’ll Find Someone Who Will details marriages, divorces, and all of the life in-between. Do the math and you can figure out how many times I’ve tripped down the aisle (5) and which problems were avoidable (I say none, but what do I know?).
So, why are we talking about this today? I had a couple of conversations this past week that led me to this post.
My last marriage culminated in an incredibly messy divorce. The whole exercise was wasteful and illogical. I lost patience with her and her brain trust. The terminology reflected that reality. On April 25, 2005 I “pulled the plug on her”. When the papers were finally signed fifteen months later on July 13, 2006 and she received considerably less than what I had originally offered, I had cigars made. Last November I posted on Facebook that “I just wrote the last check to the woman who cured me of marriage”.
And there’s the rub. You can not be cured of marriage. Marriage is not an illness. I know that. I believe in the institution of marriage. I am very supportive and proud of the partnership my daughter Jennifer and my son-in-law Matt have created. I am excited that my son Phillip will be marrying Allison this October. My glibness may have overrun my reality.
And so, I apologize if I have ever disparaged marriage. I did not do it on purpose. The unpleasantness of 2005 and 2006 are a long time ago and that verbiage denotes anger and hurt. I have neither. I don’t have any immediate plans to remarry. But, I think it is probably time to retire certain phrases that give the impression that only the threat of physical violence would force me to make such a commitment.
My friend and client, Ron (name changed) and I met for coffee a few days ago. The late morning crowd at the Chagrin Road Starbucks paid no attention to two middle aged businessmen. Good. The conversation was serious and private.
Ron, a small business owner, has an open secret. He is gay. He has been with his partner, Stanley, for almost fifteen years. They have a lovely home in Lake County. They have created a nice life with good friends. More accurately, half a life. Ron has never brought Stanley to the office, even for the annual company party. Since he has never acknowledged his sexuality or Stanley, Ron thinks he is fooling his employees. He is not.
This is Ron’s decision, not mine. But when asked I told him to hide in plain sight. His non-secret is a problem because he has made it a problem. His employees know or suspect whatever there is to know. The only power in his secret is that it is a secret. The only shame, if any, his. Would his employees quit? Work less? Respect him less? Of course not.
So we’ve come full circle. I promise to choose my words about marriage with the same care as I show when pairing a shirt and tie. I will still listen intently. And, I will continue to hide in plain sight.
The attorney moved. Yes, the attorney has a name, but I think that I lived here for a year before I knew it or that we had really talked. His acquisition of a dog forced him to be more social. I have no pets.
I moved into my apartment in April of 2006. I was still engaged in an unnecessarily messy divorce, trying to sell my house in Shaker, and preparing for two weeks in Australia. Did I mention that I moved in the day before Passover? Lots and lots of stress. I didn’t have the time for anyone else’s drama.
I wasn’t mean or rude. I acknowledged people I passed in the hallway or saw on the elevator with a nod or a smile. I spoke when spoken to. I didn’t initiate any conversations. I wanted to be left alone.
I was accosted by the elderly couple from across the hall. I had lived in the Hamptons for about two months.
What’s your name?
Are you Catholic?
No, I’m Jewish.
You can’t be Jewish. You aren’t friendly enough to be Jewish!
I checked my doorpost – Mezuzah. His – none. I guess his previous Jewish neighbors had brought him cookies. I don’t know. He and his wife were gone soon enough and the unit has had three different tenants since. I’ve yet to deliver cookies to any of them.
The confrontation got me thinking. Do I have a social responsibility to befriend every tenant passing through this floor? What about the blond who hasn’t discovered the dryer’s lint filter? How about the yahoo who doesn’t take the shopping carts back to the basement? I would like to pick and choose where and when I relinquish my last bit of privacy.
The attorney was a mutual choice. We talked. We went to a couple of ballgames. We occasionally hung out. And now he is moving. He purchased a nearby condo. He is hoping for a fresh start and equity, two things a new residence could provide.
Four years here. Four buildings. Number of people living here that I know well – less than four. This is not a complaint. It is probably more of a subconscious than an intentional choice. I prefer my home to be peaceful. I feel compelled, at times, to eliminate disruptions.
Define disruptions? An infant in the whirlpool? That’s a disruption. A teenager arguing with his girlfriend? That’s a disruption. Someone leaving clothes in the washer or dryer for an hour or two? Crap, I’ve become Mr. Wilson.
Oh well. The attorney is only moving down the street. I will eventually talk to a couple more residents. Hell, I may even bake cookies.
You have welcomed us at a most auspicious time.
Your stride is long, your steps are slow.
Your arms swing, sometimes wildly, as you move.
We share your pain of Yushu.
There are no more Emperors, yet you have many dragons.
Teach them to be respected instead of feared.
You have millions to command.
China welcomed another group of American businesspeople. The price was too good to pass up. So I didn’t. They flew us on Air China. They showed us four cities, the Great Wall, palaces, and a Buddhist Temple. We saw what they wanted us to see including factories and factory stores. Jade. Pearls. Cloisonné. Silk. Silk Rugs. We were expected to Ooh and Aw and spend lots of money. We did. We were also expected to become China’s best salesmen, ready to deliver glowing generalities. I am happy to cooperate:
The Great Wall is amazing.
The gardens of Suzhou are beautifull
The food was fine, the people friendly.
Beth Bryan was ticked because they didn’t take me to the new dam project where so many people have been displaced. Well of course they didn’t. The Chinese showed us what they wanted us to see. Besides, most of my readers live in Cuyahoga County. All governments displace people.
I took close to 500 pictures. Some will be posted on this blog and some will appear on Facebook. You will have to come to my office to be bored with all of them. I brought back silk, jade, and other souvenirs. I strongly recommend this trip for everyone.
This past Sunday’s Plain Dealer included three articles that originally appeared in the Detroit Free Press while I was gone. Travel editor, Ellen Creager took a similar trip. She went to the same places and saw most of the same sites. Feel free to check out her travelogue. My focus is slightly different.
There are 9,999 rooms in the Forbidden City. The Forbidden City was a palace right in Beijing, the northern capital. 9,999. Why? 9 is a royal number. I guess 99,999 would have seemed excessive.
The Emperors had unlimited wealth, manpower, and land. The Forbidden City, a maze of spectacular architecture and huge open squares, is filled with the efforts of others, the unthanked Chinese who slaved for rulers whose greed knew no bounds. Silk. Pottery. Impressive sculptures. What did I enjoy of my couple of hours within the walled city? I loved watching the faces of the Chinese tourists and children surveying the accomplishments of their ancestors, the people who constructed these buildings and laid the bricks in those squares.
The Summer Palace is only a few miles away. Located on Kumming Lake, the Summer Palace was esthetically more pleasing with its ornate Long Corridor and traditional gardens. We were treated to stories of handmaidens collecting dew, eunuchs, and all of the other trappings of uncontrolled wealth and greed. It was raining that day. The sea of Chinese with their brightly colored umbrellas overwhelmed us. We saw pretty buildings. They saw their history. What was simply ornate and colorful to us had a deep meaning and purpose to them. Did they see the results of centuries of exploitation or the skill of their ancestors who toiled in hardship? My guess is both.
I mention the Chinese because they made the trip worthwhile. About twelve years ago I visited the ancient city of Tulum just south of Cancun. There were cool buildings that reflected an advanced culture. I marveled at their construction. We could only guess as to what life had been like 800, 900 years ago in the place we were standing. But we were visitors. We had no ownership. Our guides could only guess. My trip to China was completely different and that much more special.